It’s never easy following up a tournament of the magnitude of the Simms Bassmaster Elite at Lake Fork where four anglers got Century Belts, but the Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Pickwick Lake may be up to the task. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a true offshore, Tennessee River ledge fishing event, but this event is setting up to be just that.
Although ledge fishing will certainly play a big role in the event, Pickwick Lake is a diverse fishery, so anglers will be able to fish their strengths. When it comes to Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing, I’m opting to select anglers who have Tennessee River experience.
Let’s get into my picks.
BUCKET A: MULLINS
Sitting in third place in Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year points, David Mullins has been on a roll this season, and it’s hard to believe he won’t keep it rolling at Pickwick. The East Tennessee pro is well known to be one of the best offshore fishermen on the Elites, and this event should set up in his wheelhouse. Look for Mullins to dial into the offshore bite and make it work, similar to how he did at Lake Fork.
Solid secondary selection: Brandon Lester is another angler who has a history of success on the Tennessee River as well as fishing for postspawn, offshore fish. Expect the Tennessee pro to locate schools of fish and manage them for the duration of the event.
BUCKET B: JOHNSTON
For his standards, Chris Johnston has had an up-and-down season through five Elite Series events in 2022. With that said, he’s registered back-to-back top 20 finishes at Chickamauga and Fork. Although offshore ledge fishing may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Johnston, he’s had a history of success on the Tennessee River when the fish hit the offshore ledges.
Solid secondary selection: If you’re looking for an under the radar pick in Bucket B, look no further than Joseph Webster. The Alabama native lives under two hours away from Pickwick, so there’s likely no lack of experience on this famed body of water.
BUCKET C: DAVIS
Don’t let Clent Davis’ poor finish at Pickwick in 2021 fool you, this event sets up well for his strengths. Last season, the Alabama pro was battling through an injury that made it difficult to operate, but that should be no issue this time around. Although Davis calls the Coosa River home, his history of success on the Tennessee River speaks for itself.
Solid secondary selection: It’s not unusual to see an angler struggle after winning an event, but I wouldn’t expect that to be the case with Lee Livesay. The four-time Bassmaster winner should be able to fish to his strengths again at Pickwick.
BUCKET D: MOSLEY
I’m going with Brock Mosley in Bucket D despite the high player percentage. The Mississippi pro considers Pickwick to be a home lake of sorts, as he’s spent the majority of his life fishing the lake. After a disappointing event at Lake Fork, Mosley needs to bounce back with a solid event to jump back into Bassmaster Classic contention.
Solid secondary selection: This could very well be Cody Huff’s breakout event as an Elite Series pro. To this point, the Missouri pro has struggled to get things rolling, but his ability to locate and catch offshore fish could be crucial in this event.
BUCKET E: SCHMITT
Through five Elite Series events, there are plenty of surprising names in Bucket E. Rather than sticking with the high-percentage anglers, Bryan Schmitt will get the nod for my roster. The Maryland pro notched a Top 10 at Pickwick in 2021, and he has proved to be a master of fishing submerged grass, which Pickwick has.
Solid secondary selection: It’s taking everything in me to not pick Justin Atkins. While the Alabama pro has had a tough couple of years on the Elites, I still feel like it’s a matter of time before he breaks out of it. Atkins calls Pickwick home, and he has as much knowledge of the fishery as anyone in the field.
Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge
• Justin Atkins
• Scott Canterbury
• Clent Davis
• Michael Iaconelli
• Brandon Lester
• Joseph Webster
• Matthew Robertson
• Josh Stracner